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Photography and text:
Rob van Hoesel
Jos Morree (Fine Books)
Print and binding:
Wilco Art Books (NL)
Jaap Harten Fonds
Gemeente Den Haag
The world offshore is a world unknown. At least for most of us. Fascinated by the flashing lights in the distance, like the call of sirens on the horizon, Tanja Engelberts (NL) became interested in the offshore oil and gas industry. Forgotten Seas is the accumulation of six years of research, a journey across the North Sea.
The work is a photographic exploration of Engelberts’ archive, consisting of documentary photographs taken during her trips on maintenance vessels and on the platforms, as well as historical images she collected over the years. The photographs are combined with written anecdotes about life on an oil rig. Stories of people she met on the sea and her own travel experiences.
Upon the waves we go. From optimism and the feeling that man had conquered nature in the fifties, to a more critical view on the fossil fuel industry and its future: the destruction of the first platforms. Each chapter has its own visual language and design, highlighting the raw and complex structures on the sea while evoking a sense of awe and guilt.
Forgotten Seas is a testament of seventy years of gas and oil drilling in the North Sea, an industrial landscape that is slowly disappearing.
Tanja Engelberts is a visual artist based in The Hague. She has worked on several projects related to the fossil fuel industry and in particular how energy production changes our landscape. Engelberts completed a two-year residency at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. Her work was published and exhibited in the Netherlands, Germany, United Kingdom, Estonia, France and Japan. Forgotten Seas is her first published monograph.
“America went to the Moon, Europe to the North Sea. [...] Her book shows the men's world of the offshort and the disappearing, industrial, but inhabited landscape - up close, and from a bird's eye view, the inside of the rigs and their raw outside of pipes, taps and waste gas flares. The offshore has its own visual ‘language’.” (Hans Steketee)
“Thus, the book provides a fascinating overview of an industry that has drastically changed the face of the North Sea since the 1960s. Initially, optimism prevailed, the feeling that man had conquered nature. After all, we could build in the most difficult environment imaginable, namely in the middle of a raging sea. [...] Now, on the contrary, we are looking more and more critically at the fossil industry. More and more platforms are being decommissioned; at the same time, wind turbines are shooting up like mushrooms from the sea.” (Jean-Paul Keulen)
“How strange, you think, that these things can symbolise so many contradictory things at the same time. For how unstoppable the human species is in its subjugation of nature. For how impressive that is, and how woeful. The ambiguity jumps out at you from the image. That these artefacts of human ingenuity, no matter how enormous and ingenious and impressive they are, when seen from afar, hold something icy, and radiate vulnerability.” (Jan Postma)
“Thus, my favorite part of Forgotten Seas is that it asks us to consider what we might learn about the future by observing the life (and afterlife) of oil rigs. In various ways, Engelberts draws attention to the negative consequences that have followed heavy investment in offshore fossil fuel infrastructure.” (Matt Schneider)